Randy Mayeux and I are really excited about our upcoming book, entitled Answers to 100 Best Business Questions from 100 Best-Selling Business Books.
The book attempts to answer questions that our clients have in areas such as customer service, management, leadership, teamwork, communication skills, and strategy. The answers come from books that we have presented over the years at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas. Each question and answer fits on exactly one page.
The idea for the book came from a presentation we heard last week at Success North Dallas with Jill Schiefelbein, who spoke on business video, podcasting, and livestreaming. She is called the DYNAMIC COMMUNICATOR. Her major take-away is that businesses need to answer the questions that their customers ask. I am pictured with her below.
Here is a sample page from the book to whet your appetite:
What do customers really want salespeople to know?
Ram Charan. (2007). What the customer wants you to know: How everybody needs to think differently about sales. New York: Portfolio.
The landscape for selling has changed in significant ways in the past twenty years. Customers’ quest for personal service and high quality, now rival the best possible price that they want to pay. In this best-seller, Ram Charan explains what this revolution in customer demands means for salespeople’s behavior.
What exactly has changed? Years ago, supplies were tight, and customers had to book orders months in advance, with little room to negotiate price. Salespeople transitioned from order-takers to ambassadors, identifying needs and linking them to products and services, building relationships with their customers. Today, there is a glut of suppliers and supplies, with access from the Internet to all types of locations. The customers are under pressure to deliver value to their clients. “But the pressure on customers to perform is actually a huge opportunity for those suppliers who can help them….So while they want low prices, they also want their clients to love their products and services. They want to win against their competitors and stay ahead of them…They want suppliers who can help them accomplish those things by acting as partners, not one-time transactors” (pp. 4-5)
So, what does Charan say to do? Make the focus on the prosperity of your customers. Become your customer’s trusted partner, requiring you to understand: (1) the customer’s set of opportunities and the anatomy of competitive dynamics, (2) the customer’s customers and the customer’s competitors, (3) how decisions are made in the customer’s organization, (4) the customer’s company culture and its dominant psychology and values, and (5) the customer’s goals and priorities, both short-term and long-term, clearly and specifically (p. 40).
In short, Charan tells you to measure your success by how well your customers are doing with your help. Do not focus on selling a product or service; focus on how you can help the customer succeed in all ways that are important to that customer.
The newest book from Ram Charan was released yesterday (2/24/2015). We have presented so many of his books at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas that I am almost certain that we won’t do this one. But, I thought that our blog readers would like to know that he has another book out.
The book is entitled The Attacker’s Advantage: Turning Uncertainty into Breakthrough Opportunities (Public Affairs: 2015). On its first day of release, it shot to the top of Amazon.com’s Planning and Forecasting sub-section of Business Book Best-Sellers. The reviews on Amazon.com are enthusiastic, but as always, we don’t know where they come from or how they got there.
Here is the description of the book from Amazon.com:
The forces driving today’s world of structural change create sharp bends in the road that can lead to major explosions in your existing market space. But exponential change also offers exponential opportunities. How do you leverage change to go on the offense? The Attacker’s Advantage is the game plan for winning in an era of ambiguity, volatility, and complexity, when every leader and every business is being challenged in new and unexpected ways.
While many leaders know how to cope with operational uncertainty—when, for example, revenue fluctuates—the same cannot be said for dealing with structural uncertainty that can alter the money-making patterns of a company, industry or entire economic sector…. [The book demonstrates] the huge upside offered by structural uncertainty and provides the concepts and tools—such as being able to spot the catalysts of disruption, building organizational preparedness, developing a financial understanding of the consequences—to take advantage of forces that are creating new customer needs, market segments and ways to make money.
The book has four major sections:
1. The Fundamental Leadership Challenge of Our Time
2. Building Perceptual Acuity
3. Going on the Offense
4. Making the Organization Agile
Some summaries of Charan’s earlier books are available at 15MinuteBusinessBooks.com.
Only time will tell whether this is a valuable contribution to the business literature. But, from the first day of its release, it is certainly off to a smashing start.
I know that we are still working on the August 1 First Friday Book Synopsis with two excellent books and our bonus program, but I am already looking forward to my September presentation. It has excellent reviews and plenty of strong publicity, including one by our blogging partner, Bob Morris. You can read his review published on this blog by clicking here.
The Talent Masters: Why Smart Leaders Put People Before Numbers
By Bill Conaty and Ram Charan (New York: Crown Business)
Here is a summary of the book from Amazon.com, and a review published in the Wall Street Journal.
If talent is the leading indicator of whether a business is up or down, a success or a failure (and it is) . . . do you know how to accurately judge raw human talent? Understand a person’s unique combination of traits? Develop that talent? Convert what supposedly are “soft” subjective judgments about people into objective criteria that are as specific, verifiable, and concrete as the contents of a financial statement?
The talent masters do. They put people before numbers for the simple reason that it is talent that delivers the numbers. Success comes from those who are able to extract meaning from events and the forces affecting a business, and are able to look at the world and assess the risks to take and the risks to avoid.
The Talent Masters itself stems from a unique combination of talent: During a forty-year career at General Electric, Bill Conaty worked closely with CEOs Jack Welch and Jeff Immelt to build that company’s worldrenowned talent machine. Ram Charan is the legendary advisor to companies around the world. Together they use their unparalleled experience and insight to write the definitive book on talent—a breakthrough in how to take a business to the next level.
Here is the book review published in the Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2010, p. A21
By ALAN MURRAY
A decade after Jack Welch stepped down as chief executive of General Electric, he still commands remarkable respect as a management guru. The company he once led has lost its magic, the business processes he developed to battle bureaucracy have become bureaucratic themselves, and many of the “graduates” of the Jack Welch school have since stumbled—think Bob Nardelli at Home Depot or Jim McNerney at Boeing. (Has anyone seen that Dreamliner yet?)
Yet Mr. Welch and the management mythology surrounding him continue, untarnished. “The Talent Masters” is the latest celebration of the Welch way. It’s written by Bill Conaty, the recently retired senior vice president for human resources at GE, and Ram Charan, the business adviser and author who often collaborates on books with ex-CEOs.
“The Talent Masters” rests on three principles that characterize the Welch approach to management: (1) A focus on talent development. Mr. Welch and the other “talent masters” in the book—we also hear from folks at companies including Procter & Gamble and Novartis—claim that they spend more than a third of their time developing their people. (2) Differentiation. Talent masters create a meritocracy by constantly evaluating their people—a process which, in Mr. Welch’s case, was derided by critics as “rank and yank.” (3) Candor. This is the ultimate Welch trademark: ruthless honesty in evaluating the performance of people and businesses.
By now the book’s principle-trilogy is familiar.
But the authors add to the Welchian wisdom by documenting some interesting examples. For instance, we learn about the day in 2000 when Larry Johnston, head of GE’s appliance business, flew to corporate headquarters in Fairfield, Conn., to tell his bosses that he was leaving to head up Albertsons, the supermarket chain. The news was a surprise to
Mr. Conaty, to Jeff Immelt—who was then making a transition to the CEO job—and to Mr. Welch.
All three tried to talk Mr. Johnston into changing his mind. But after determining that their effort was futile, the executives turned their attention to succession. Within a half-day they had agreed on who would replace Mr. Johnston and on who would fill three other slots down the chain of command. The quick action was possible, we’re told, only because the three men had been heavily involved in the continuous evaluation of the company’s top talent.
The authors compare GE’s rapid-fire performance in replacing Mr. Johnston with what happened recently at Hewlett Packard, when Mark Hurd was forced to step down after indiscretions involving a marketing consultant. The company, the book says, came “unhinged.” For the third time in little more than a decade, the HP board felt compelled to pick a chief executive from the outside—an implicit acknowledgment of failed succession planning. (Mr. Welch seems almost personally offended by such corporate inattention: The HP board, he told me in an interview before the World Business Forum earlier this year, has “not done one of the primary jobs of a board, which is to prepare the next generation of leadership.” Asked if he knew any of the HP board members personally, Mr. Welch said: “I wouldn’t admit it if I did.”)
Messrs. Conaty and Charan also show the forgiving side of Mr. Welch’s GE. They tell the story of Mark Little, who in 1995 was promoted to vice president of engineering at the company’s Power Systems group. Following his appointment, the group missed its numbers three times in a row, and Mr. Little was demoted. He suspected that his career at GE was over.
Instead, executives there worked with Mr. Little to assure him that he still had a future and to help him rebuild his career in a position that made better use of his talents. Today he is the senior vice president in charge of the corporate R&D center, and one of the company’s top 25 executives.
The book begins with GE-related examples, but some of its most arresting stories come from outside the company. A particularly interesting chapter involves Hindustan Unilever, Unilever’s $3.5 billion Indian subsidiary. The company routinely evaluates candidates for management jobs by putting several applicants together to discuss a specific business issue in a group. This allows the company to see how they interact with each other and who has leadership potential.
Another instructive anecdote comes from Adrian Dillon, Skype’s chief financial officer. Mr. Dillon tells of how, early in his management career, when he was working at Eaton Corp., he was accosted after a meeting by his boss, the company’s CFO. “That was a great meeting, but your problem is that you still think your job is to be the smartest guy in the room. It’s not,” the man told him. Instead, Mr. Dillon was told, his job was to “make everybody in the room think that they’re the smartest guy in the room. You’ve got to teach them what you know and what you do, not tell them.”
Overall, “The Talent Masters” offers a valuable window into the skills of talent development. And it makes a persuasive case, yet again, for the wisdom of the Welch way. But you do have to wonder whether, a decade after Mr. Welch’s retirement, it isn’t time to find a new icon for the rapidly evolving world of business management.
Mr. Murray is deputy managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and the author of “The Wall Street Journal Essential Guide to Management.”
The problem is simple. Too many employees are not fully developed. In fact, too many employees develop very little after they are hired.
And this is a problem.
So, how does a company do a better job at developing employees? Here is a line from the 2002 book that kind of launched the “Execution” discussion of the last decade, Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan.
Teach your people – but remember, 80% of learning happens outside of the formal learning situations.
If 80% of learning happens outside of the formal learning situations, does this mean that the formal training, the formal sessions, are a waste of time? Yes – and no.
The formal training sessions are essential to jump-start the conversation, to give the “basics,” to “teach” the principles that need to be worked on. In other words, if the 80% of learning is outside the formal learning situations, you still need the formal session to start the process effectively. It is only a start – but it is an essential start.
But, after the session, the real learning begins. As the employee “works on” this new development area, a manager has to provide feedback, coaching, constructive criticism. It has to be someone’s job to help each employee take the next step.
So, in other words, without the training session, it is a much harder task to demonstrate just what needs to be worked on. But just to “say/present/teach,” even in a well-designed and well-led training session “this is what you need to work on,” without effective follow-up feedback and coaching, then, yes, training sessions can be a waste of time and resources.
In other words, it takes work; ongoing work, a lot of work, and teamwork between employee and managers, to develop the skills and capabilities of employees.
At Creative Communication Network, we have recently experimented with a new “Individual Action Plan,” that each participant completes at the end of each training session. Then, it is up to that employee to share that plan with his/her manager, and together they can tackle the ongoing feedback and coaching needs.
The training sessions alone are good, valuable. But, not enough! We are fully convinced that it is the “next steps” that make all the difference.
Let me help you plan your reading for 2011.
The issue is… Leadership Development.
Look at those words. Think about them. They say a lot. Mainly they say this – leaders have to be developed, and leaders have to focus on, and work on, continual development. This does not happen by accident. Some leaders may be “born,” but most leaders are “developed.”
And one practice of ever-developing leaders is that they read. They read books for the purpose of personal development.
I thought about all of this after a great conversation over breakfast with my blogging colleague, Bob Morris. We talked about a lot. We share a love of reading, we share a deep appreciation of good authors and good books, so we are probably a little “biased” in our view of leadership development. But I think the evidence is on our side – leadership development does not happen by accident, and reading good books is a critical and time-tested path to leadership development.
So – assume that you are leader, and that you want to work on leadership development. What should you read? I’ve got a suggested list. If Bob, or my First Friday Book Synopsis colleague Karl Krayer were to suggest a list, it would be a different list. These are mostly books that I have read. It is my list of “areas of focus.” Some of these books are not new. But they are all worth reading, and if you want to get serious about leadership development, I think this is a pretty good list to start with.
Of course, there are other areas of focus that need/deserve/beg for attention — and other truly deserving book titles. This list is only a beginning…
So – here it is – my suggested reading list for leadership development. It includes seven areas of focus, with a total of eleven books. That is one book a month for 2011 (giving you either July or December “off”). Whether you choose these titles or not; whether you choose these areas of focus, or not; this I recommend: follow a leadership development plan. It is worth the investment of time!
|As you focus on:||A good book to read is:|
|The Right Values||True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership (J-B Warren Bennis Series) by Bill George and Peter Sims|
|The Right Strategy||The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking by Roger L. Martin
Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm by Verne Harnish
|Effective Leadership||(note: this was a tough “focus” for which to choose the “best” book(s). I absolutely would include this Kouzes and Posner book: it is practical, and extraordinarily valuable).
Fierce Leadership: A Bold Alternative to the Worst “Best” Practices of Business Today by Susan Scott
|Effective Communication||Words that Work by Frank Luntz
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
|Functional, Effective Teamwork
|The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni|
|Cultivating Creativity and Innovation||The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp
Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson
|Successful Execution||Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan|
I hope you succeed at your attempts at leadership development in 2011.
Note: this is not my first attempt to suggest a reading list. Earlier, I posted this: Build Your Own Strategic Reading Plan — or, How Should You Pick Which Business Book(s) to Read? It has other suggestions, for other areas of focus.
So many books…so little time!
Here are three ways we can help with your leadership development efforts:
#1: You can bring me, or my colleague Karl Krayer, into your organization to present synopses of these, and many other books. These synopses provide the key content, and facilitated discussion of the implications. Contact me at .
#2: You can purchase our 15 minute version of these synopses, with audio + handout, from our companion web site at 15minutebusinessbooks.com. (Most of these were presented live at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas. Be sure to read the faqs).
#3: Our blogging colleague Bob Morris is an accomplished business consultant, and can help your organization tackle these (and other) issues in an extended way. Contact Bob directly at .
Update: My blogging colleague Bob Morris, added some worthy volumes to this list. Check out his expanded list by clicking here.
Here’s his expanded list:
The Right Values
True North by Bill George and Peter Sims
The Executive’s Compass by James O’Toole
The Highest Goal by Michael Ray
The Heart Aroused by David Whyte
The Right Strategy
The Opposable Mind by Roger L. Martin
Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
Unstoppable by Chris Zook
Enterprise Architecture as Strategy by Jeanne Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson
Fierce Leadership by Susan Scott
Encouraging the Heart by James Kouzes and Barry Posner
Maestro by Roger Nierenberg
True North by Bill George and Peter Sims
Words that Work by Frank Luntz
Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Influence by Robert Cialdini
The Back of the Napkin and Unfolding the Napkin by Dan Roam
Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
Functional & Effective Teamwork
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
Organizing Genius by Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman
Collaboration by Morten Hansen
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Cultivating Creativity and Innovation
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson
Freedom, Inc. by Brian M. Carney and Isaac Getz
The Idea of Innovation and The Ten Faces of Innovation by Thomas Kelley
Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono
Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind by Guy Claxton
Execution by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
Reality Check by Guy Kawasaki
The Other Side of Innovation by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble
Open Innovation and Open Business Models by Henry Chesbrough
Plus two additional categories:
Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice co-edited by Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana
The Talent Masters by Bill Conaty and Ram Charan
The Center for Creative Leadership Handbook of Leadership Development co-edited by Ellen Van Velsor, Cynthia D. McCauley, and Marian N. Ruderman
Extraordinary Leadership co-edited by Kerry Bunker, Douglas T. Hall, and Kathy E. Kram
Employee Engagement & Talent Management
A Sense of Urgency and Buy-In by John Kotter
The Art of Engagement by Jim Haudan
Engaging the Hearts and Minds of All Your Employees by Lee J. Colan
Growing Great Employees by Erika Andersen
Why do you read books? (or blogs, or magazines, or anything else?)
We live in an ever-more utilitarian age. We read in order to do something. We read in order to implement. To put it in business terms, we read in order to “execute.” In fact, we read the book Execution in order to execute.
There is an irony here. Most people read, and then fail to execute. But that is another discussion.
I’m writing about something deeper. Has our execution-centered age lost something profound about the love of learning? Last Sunday night on 60 Minutes, Andy Rooney hinted at this. It was prompted by the problems of unemployment. He argued that we need more people “doing things.” But, if they do, what about their college educations? He ended his piece with these words:
Would it be a waste of education for someone who graduates from Yale for example, to become a plumber, an electrician or a bricklayer? We need people who can actually do things. We have too many bosses and too few workers.
More college graduates ought to become plumbers or electricians, then, go home at night and read Shakespeare.
I thought of all this as I read an excerpt of The Idea of a University by John Henry Newman, the Oxford-educated Rector of the Catholic University of Ireland from 1854 to 1858. (I read the excerpt in the volume The English Reader, selected by Michael Ravitch and Diane Ravitch). One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Newman: “To grow is to change, and to have changed often is to have grown much.”
In The Idea of a University, Newman wrote:
I am asked what is the end of University Education, and of the Liberal or Philosophical Knowledge which I conceive it to impart: I answer, that what I have already said has been sufficient to show that it has a very tangible, real, and sufficient end. Though the end cannot be divided from that knowledge itself. Knowledge is capable of being its own end. Such is the constitution of the human mind, that any kind of knowledge, if it be really such, is its own reward…
Now, when I say that Knowledge is, not merely a means to something beyond it, or the preliminary of certain arts into which it naturally resolves, but an end sufficient to rest in and to pursue for its own sake, surely I am uttering no paradox, for I am stating what is both intelligible in itself, and has ever been the common judgment of philosophers and the ordinary feeling of mankind.
…it is more correct to speak of a University as a place of education, than of instruction…
I think about our monthly event, the First Friday Book Synopsis. It is a wonderful collection of people who come for many reasons — great food, great networking. But I think that some (maybe most) of the folks who show up come for this simple reason – they want to learn. They enjoy learning. Not learn in order to do. Just learn for the sheer joy of learning. And, as I have often said, the more you know, the more you know.
Yes, it is true that learning might produce ripple effects that help in the utilitarian/execution arena. But learning, just learning, learning for the sake of learning, is a noble pursuit – one that should be admired and cultivated.
If you found this post worth pondering, you might want to also read this post: Dehumanized — A Cause for Alarm in Education, and in the World of Business Books.